THE SNOW QUEEN
A FAIRYTALE IN SE7EN STORIES
STORY THE F1RST
AND HIS MIRROR
There once was a sorcerer and he had a mirror. This was no ordinary mirror, and the sorcerer was not the kindly sort, with tricks and fireworks for children. No, this sorcerer was full of wickedness and mischief, and he had warped this mirror so everything it reflected appeared blighted and ugly. Sincere smiles of joy would writhe on the glass into sinister Cheshire cat grins. The face of a pretty lady would appear blemished and wrinkled— even the tiniest spot or crease would seem to spread across the entire face. A stately and beautiful fruit-tree would appear withered and gnarled, branches bowed and fruit rotten and weeping.
The sorcerer took his mirror on a Grand Tour, and soon every corner of the continent was affected by its malice. The people who looked in the mirror despaired and wept tears of sorrow, for all their hopes and prides and joys and dreams turned to ashes, and nothing appeared fine or pure any longer. Gentlemen looked at the ancient ruins of empires past in southern lands, and saw only crumbling stones. Ladies looked in the windows of the finest fashion-shops, dressmakers, and hatteries on the Left Bank of the Seine, and saw only tawdry dresses made out of cheap fabric. Children opened presents, and cried and stomped because they wanted what other children owned, because it was more expensive. The sorcerer laughed at his own cleverness.
Before too long, our sorcerer became bored of tormenting petty humans and looked heavenwards for his entertainment. Thinking even to turn the thoughts of the angels or the gods to despair, he directed his impish helpers to carry the mirror up to the sky and show it to the celestial beings. The sorcerer roared with laughter when he thought of the confusion he would cause in Paradise, or Olympus, or the Valhalla. Ever higher the imps flew, but, as they climbed, so the winds grew stronger and colder, and the mirror grew harder and harder to hold. At last, a fierce gust of gale seized the looking-glass, and it flapped away, cloth wrappings billowing like sails. But gravity will have its day, and soon the mirror crashed into a frozen mountainside, smashing into hundreds, nay, thousands of tiny pieces.
The sorcerer's imps feared a beating, if not a harsher and crueller punishment, for their master could be harsh indeed. Crestfallen, they returned to his castle and reported the disaster. They expected the sorcerer to fly into a rage, but he simply smiled and turned awat when he heard the news, for he was a clever man, and foresaw what would happen next.
The shards and other fragments of the mirror were blown by winds and carried by waters until they could be found in every corner of the continent. Some were made into spectacle lenses and small, decorative windowpanes. Others were used to make pretty jewellery for young ladies. This made the sorcerer smile, for he knew that every tiny fragment retained all the sinister powers of the original mirror; those windows showed only a soulless and bleak world; those spectacles brought their wearers nought but despair and sorrow, and the jewellery brought jealousy and vanity and discord into the lives of many a young couple's romance.
Worse still, a speck of the looking-glass would fly into someone's eye. They would never find the stinging object — but things would never look the same again. The unluckiest of all breathed in or swallowed little pieces by accident or in their food. The glass would worm its way into their hearts, and soon those hearts were cold and without feelings.
A dark mood spread across the continent. Pickpockets became highwaymen; jealous lovers turned to murder those they adored; petty squabbles over land turned to open wars.
The sorcerer saw all of this and smiled.